Three very decent Indian restaurants on Rte 30 (Lancaster Avenue) within one mile of each other.
This review refers to food offered at the lunch buffet during the week.
I already knew how good Gateway to India and Himalayan were.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was at Royal India, the first restaurant on the rte 30 strip of stores just as you turn on to the road from rte 29, heading east.
What is missing in the ambience is made up for in the variety and freshness of the food, and at the lowest lunch buffet cost of any similar restaurant in the area. There is a very large variety of foods - soup, a large salad and dessert bar, and a large variety of vegetarian and poultry and meat dishes. Even the rice pilau was very freshly prepared. This place's naan is the freshest I have had of any restaurant.
By the dessert table are free drinks - like Masala Tea. The day I was there, there was, in addition to the Masala Tea, free Mango Lassi.
A few areas in need of improvement - even during peak times, the trays of several entrees can remain empty for sustained periods of time. (If you are waiting in the buffet line for minutes, you don't want to have to stand by the trays for another 5 minutes for 2 or 3 dishes to be refilled.) I have been at this restaurant at other days where I experienced a lengthy delay for food being refilled. There needs to be better monitoring of the supply and faster replacement (as is done by restaurants like A Taste of India - at that restaurant, once a tray is nearly empty, there is almost always a fresh supply brought out).
One other troublesome item - because of the size of the restaurant and the positioning of the buffet tables, diners who are positioned near the buffet line can be surrounded by people waiting to gather their food. (Best to get a table far away from the line waiting to get their food.) If you go to this restaurant when it is not crowded, this is not a problem, but on a crowded day, you will think of returning at a less hectic time.
If you want to pay more money for a lunch buffet, but want a "fancier" and "less hectic" environment to eat in (earlier in the week is more relaxed at Royal India), Himalayan and/or Gateway to India may be better choices. Keep in mind that Gateway to India does offer a decent variety of dishes and a few extras, but its variety does not compare with that of Himalayan, Royal India, or A Taste of India. But you will be provided with the nicest ambience of all of them.
I'd rate Royal India a 10 (being the highest) for overall value, 8.5 for quality, 9.5 for freshness, 9 for variety, 6 for ambience (the inside is pretty dark!), 8 for helpfulness of food servers (they could use more help during busy time, but then again, for the price, you can't complain).
On this row, I'd rate Gateway to India as offering the nicest ambience with the most delicate flavored foods for its main entrees, Himalayan the best for overall features (relaxing ambience with large variety with adequate quality, though its soups do not compare with that of the two other restaurants), and Royal India as offering the best overall value for its selection and variety. I also liked the straightforwardness of the spice mixture of its lunch buffet entrees. (The chana masala is rather simply spiced and prepared - nothing fancy, but tasty.)Mildly spiced without excessive use of oil or fat. Sometimes there are Chinese inspired dishes with accompanying Chinese spices for those dishes.
Beware of going there on a Friday near noon - it is very crowded.
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